BMW’s goal for the all-new 7 Series flagship, launched in the summer of 1978, was simple: make a performance-oriented and engaging to drive four-door luxury saloon — and they knocked it out of the park with the E23.

The 733i — with a 3.2-litre 12-valve M30 straight-six — made 197 horsepower which was edge of your seat stuff for the day. It was mated to a four-speed manual while a three-speed automatic could be had too and customers also had the choice of two smaller engines, the 2.8-litre and 3.0-litre with 170 and 184 respectively. Early fuel-injected models used the Bosch L-jetronic system while later models used the more advanced digital Bosch Motronic system while the 728 and 730 were available with a Solex four-barrel carburettor until ‘79.

It was a sleek, sporty offering which was lapped up by enthusiasts as not only was it thrilling to drive but it had razor-sharp reflexes too; the double-link front suspension kept it nice and tight in the corners, the steering offered good feedback and the disc brakes in all four corners had strong stopping power. The ingeniously tailored yet understated body shared much of the design of the Paul Bracq-penned 3, 5, and 6 Series models. That included the shark-nose front end with BMW’s trademark twin kidney grille, the Hofmeister kink in the C-pillar, and the boot’s rolled-off trailing edge. A nice touch was the Alpina Style alloy wheels.

Inside, it packed the highest quality materials but little effort was made in terms of visual pizzazz; the only splash of opulence was the matte-finish wood trim on the doors. It had power seats, seat heaters, climate control, power windows and mirrors and ABS (the first BMW to be so equipped) but it wasn’t a tech fest like today’s 7 Series — in fact the coolest feature was the BMW Check Control next to the steering wheel; this was a small panel which gave the driver information on various aspects including the brakes, coolant and other fluid levels, and the head and tailights and was carried over from the 6 Series.

The E23 — produced until 1987 — was always in the shadow of the 6 Series, but it firmly established itself as a modern classic and retails for around Dh40,000 today which is a tiny sum for a car of this quality. It is far from telephone number values — but, it can’t be long before it reaches those...